Student Abstracts 2016

These abstracts of student coursework were submitted by seniors from the class of 2016 for Senior Colloquium, March 2016.

Note on major tracks: Classical Languages and Literature = lang; Classical Civilizations = civ; Mediterranean Archaeology = arch; Ancient History = anc

1. Stilicho the Survivor: A Re-Evaluation of Stilicho’s Regime (Louis Capozzi)

My project examines the regime of the general Stilicho, who governed the West Roman Empire between 395 and 408 C.E as a surrogate for the emperor Honorius, who ruled from 395-423 C.E. Their relationship and government are complicated and defy simple characterization. The emperor Honorius was eight years old at the start of his reign, while the Roman general Stilicho had been declared the child’s legal guardian by the emperor’s dead father Theodosius (ruled 379-395 C.E.). First, the project introduces a new way of understanding the regime’s complexity, while simultaneously demonstrating that Stilicho was a sophisticated political actor. The project then considers the legal and rhetorical relationship between Honorius and Stilicho, and how it was translated into a working government. Finally, the project considers how Stilicho negotiated a relationship with the military, senatorial aristocracy, and ecclesiastical hierarchy.

2. The Consequences of Violence (Simeon Esprit)

This paper compares the ancient playwright, the Bacchae to the contemporary short story, The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe. The use of violence is significant in both works despite their different forms. I describe the impact of violence in storytelling and its usefulness as a medium to convey a message. Subsequently, an examination of the audience, as well as each work's intended goal, are taken into account. I also consider societal conventions since the two works are from different time periods. I look at intentional violence and unintentional violence, hoping to arrive at a distinction between their impact on the audience and on storytelling.

3. Seismic Activity and its Effects in Pre-Vesuvian Campania (Thomas Garrity)

This paper sets out to examine the seismic activity in the Campanian Plain of Italy prior to the 79AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius from a disaster studies perspective. The goal was to establish a paradigm for the experience of an ordinary inhabitant of that region before, during and after a seismic event. Through a combination of close textual analysis, archeological examination, regional geological analysis and comparison of the earthquake damage sustained in modern events this paper is able to approximate a model for an ancient event and its effects. All the while, placing this paradigm into the context of the factors that fall under the heading of disaster studies such as: risk, hazard, and buffering.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

4. Cleopatra and Berenice: The Perception and Presentation of Two Queens (Shlomit Heering)

This paper focuses on two queens who lived and ruled on the periphery of the Roman world: Cleopatra and Berenice. Cleopatra, the last Ptolemaic queen, lived in the mid-first century BCE, while Berenice, the last Herodian queen, lived in the mid-first century CE. My project analyzes the ancient and modern texts about them in order to determine how they are perceived and presented in texts in terms of their power and agency. While there are similarities between the two queens, there are also important and telling differences in the ways ancient authors discuss them that continue to have implications for how they are perceived. 

5. Love Your Enemy: Hector as Transcendent Significance in the Iliad of Homer (Connor Higgins)

In this paper, I argue that Hector is a figure of “transcendent significance” in Homer’s Iliad. I incorporate arguments made in the eminent classicist James Tatum’s 2003 work The Mourner’s Song, and other works,to present an understanding of the antagonist Hector as a hero who can be seen as a figure of metaphor, symbolic humanity, and transcendent love. I conclude by showing that Hector is embodied by Homer as a literary figure of tremendous symbolic pathos for millennia of readers of the Iliad, an enemy so compelling that he forces the reader to understand his enemies. 

6. Greek Colonization in the 8th Century BCE (Isabella Lopez)

This paper explores the phenomenon of Greek colonization during the 8th century BCE facilitated by their maritime orientation. I open by examining the motivations for colonization as well as the foundations that existed that allowed colonization to occur. I then analyze the relations between the Greek and the non-Greek inhabitants, and end with how colonization shaped the formation of a distinct Greek identity. Evidence is provided through the use of ancient literary sources and the archaeological record, with references to secondary sources as well.

7. Reimagining Rome in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood: Is it a “valid” vision of Rome? (Casey Phillips)

In 1762, Giovanni Battista Piranesi printed the Campo Marzio dell'antica Roma collection of engravings. In 2010, Ubisoft released Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, a video game. What do these two seemingly unrelated things have to do with one another? On a surface level, they are both portraits of Rome, but they both also present inaccurate representations of Rome. My paper analyzes how Brotherhood uses themes such as “The Eternal City,” “The Fallen City,” palimpsest, and spectacle to explain how inaccurate portrayals of Rome can leave us with a more valid vision of Rome.

8. Reading Stoicism in Seneca’s Medea (Joseph Pooler)

In this paper I examine traces of Seneca’s Stoicism in his rendition of the tragedy Medea. Through analysis of several small blocks of text, I highlight similarities between Medea’s character traits and particular virtues associated with Stoic philosophy including restraint of passion and steadfastness in times of personal tragedy. I go on to show that over the course of the play, despite her objectives and methods, Medea comes to embody a warped Stoic sage. I end the paper by speculating on the reasons why Seneca would have written such a work and by musing on the implications for understanding Seneca more broadly, leaving the matter open for further study.

9. The Making of a Myth: An Examination of Cleopatra’s Portrayal in Roman Poetry Shortly After her Suicide (Juliette Reiss)

Cleopatra is both a historical figure and a legend. This paper attempts to deconstruct the many portrayals of Cleopatra that inform our perception of her as this mythical character by assessing her initial characterization in Roman poetry following her suicide. The paper addresses Horace’s Ode 1.37, Virgil’s Aeneid Book 4 and Book 8, and Propertius’ Elegy 3.11 in order to understand the dichotomy and interconnectedness between Cleopatra as a noble enemy of Rome and Cleopatra as a wicked seductress, especially with regard to the importance of these representations to the Augustan propaganda of the time.

10. Pallor in Juvenal: A Symptom of Social Disease (Allison Resnick)

Originating from the observation that Juvenal consistently uses certain color imagery in specific contexts, this paper explores the use of the term pallor in the Satires. Through the examination of three of Juvenal’s most effective uses of the term, I conclude that the satirist uses pallor to visibly reveal individuals’ otherwise internalized psychological, moral, or physical distress, which has arisen from their participation in socially problematic situations. He does so in order to draw attention to the dysfunctional political system that allows, and at times even enables, immorality or actions that violate traditional Roman values or institutions. Therefore, while scholars commonly agree that Rome’s deteriorating morality and social institutions are the target of Juvenal’s rage, I demonstrate that Juvenal ultimately indicts the political system responsible for such degeneration. As such, pallor functions as a discreet means by which the satirist can criticize the current state of politics under an imperial system that strongly discourages the expression of dissident views. 

11. Partage, Conflict, and Value in the Joint Expeditions by the Penn Museum and the British Museum at Ur of the Chaldees (Kamillia Scott)

My research in the Penn Museum Archives aimed to better understand the current composition of the museum’s collection of objects and publications from Ur, Iraq. I investigated how two residues of the partage process of dividing archaeological finds, inter-institutional conflict and recorded evaluations of archaeological materials, contributed to this composition. Because the partage system was in place during the Joint Expeditions by the Penn Museum and British Museum (1922-1934) at Ur, my investigation involved the survey of hundreds of archival documents for instances of conflict seen between the parties involved in the excavation (mainly British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley and directors of either the Penn Museum or the British Museum). My survey has revealed a consistency in conflicts related to the division of objects throughout the 12 seasons of the expedition. Despite this conflict, or possibly in spite of it, the Penn Museum and British Museum were each given a fair share in the archaeological finds as the resemblance of their modern displays may attest to. My simultaneous investigation into the evaluation of archaeological materials throughout the Joint Expeditions examined these same archival documents for instances when the value of archaeological material was being expressed. Woolley seemed to take a very holistic view towards the objects he discovered finding value in a variety of qualities.

12. An Economic Reconstruction of the Justinianic Plague Disaster and Imperial Response (Gregory Stulpin)

This paper combines disaster studies methodology with neoclassical economic approaches in order to demonstrate that the propagation of the sixth century Justinianic plague was highly dependent on previous Imperial policy and initial plague response. Among my findings were that the redistributive grain economy contributed to the plague initially reaching virulence, that Justinianic price and wage fixing exacerbated labor shortages, that currency manipulation and inflation imply a dire fiscal crisis, and that various Imperial initiatives drained resources necessary for emergency disaster relief. In accordance with economic theory, pushback for these policies was met with labor strikes and open market adjustment of currency ratios.

13. Perceptions of Time in Horace's Odes, Books 1-3: Through the Lens of Caesar’s Calendrical Reforms (Allyson Zucker)

This project explores perceptions of time in Ancient Rome in context of Caesar’s calendrical reforms, especially as interpreted through Horace's Odes, Books 1-3. It focuses on Odes 1.1, 1.11, and 3.8 that exemplify the ways in which Horace measured time. Horace recognizes the apprehension in reducing the many different conceptions of time in ancient Roman society, such as the farmer’s harvest cycle and the politician’s electoral calendar, to a single calendar in Odes 1.1, and offers resolution in the present moment in Odes 1.11. Odes 3.8 provides a concrete example of a single date that has two meanings, one in the civic calendar, and one in Horace’s personal calendar.This project brings together many strands of perceptions of time in Horace’s poetry – the link between time and power, time and mortality, time and Eros, time and occupation – with the purpose of inspiring in the reader a deeper appreciation of perhaps the most important human question of all: how should each of us spend his time?